(Korovai) Ukrainian Wedding Bread
Prep time: 2:00 Overall time: 4:00
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1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
2 pkg. dry yeast
10 cups flour
6 oz. butter
6 x-lg. eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. rum extract
1 lemon zest
1 egg beaten with a little water for glaze
Combine milk, water, salt, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl. Add yeast and 2 cups of sifted flour. Mix well and allow to rise until double in bulk. Beat eggs with 1/2 cup of sugar until frothy, and add vanilla, rum, and lemon zest. Add remaining flour to yeast mixture and mix in melted butter and egg mixture. Knead until dough is smooth and leaves the hand.
Allow to rest 5 minutes Divide dough into 3 parts; one about 3 pounds for the main korovai, one about 1 pound for the memento korovai; the balance for decoration. Place in lightly oiled bowl, turn once, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow to rise until double in bulk. Butter and sprinkle with flour a 10 inch diameter dutch oven and a glass pie dish. Butter the rims, too. Keep dough covered when it is not being worked.
On a floured work surface, knead the larger portion of dough, cut into the following pieces.
3 pieces, 12 ounces each,
2 pieces, 4 ounces each,
1 piece, 3 ounces,
Roll the 12 ounce pieces into 3 strands 28 inches long and more than 1 inch thick. Braid and arrange in a circle around the bottom of the dutch oven, overlapping ends. Roll the 4 ounce pieces into 2 strands about 29 inches long. Twist tightly (about every inch), and place on top of the braid, on its outermost rim, overlapping ends. Roll the 3 ounce piece into a small ball, flatten the top, and place in the center. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise until double in bulk.
Repeat above instructions to make a smaller replica of the korovai in the pie dish.
3 pieces, 4 ounces each
2 pieces, 2 ounces each,
1 piece, 1 1/2 ounces each.
Let rise till double in bulk. Brush both breads with egg glaze and bake in preheated 350°F oven, with pans not touching, for 15 minutes, then lower oven to 325°F. Remove the smaller korovai after 30 more minutes (total 45 minutes), glaze again, allow to rest for several minutes, then remove from pan and cool on rack. Bake the larger one 15 minutes more (total 1 hour), or until the bottom sounds hollow when rapped. Glaze again, allow to rest, remove from pan, and cool on rack. With the balance of the dough form little birds or cones or branches. Brush with egg wash, bake in a preheated oven 325°F until done. Repeat brushing for a high glaze.
Assembling the Korovai:
Small birds are attached with toothpicks around the outer edge, two doves in the center. Branches are arranged to meet in an arch over the top. Myrtle or periwinkle may be used for added contrast, as decided by the newlyweds or the baker.
Decoration of the memento korovai is similar but less elaborate.
This yeast-raised wedding bread is representative of the korovai baked throughout Ukraine. A korovai may be adorned with a variety of decorations; doves symbolizing the newlyweds, other birds, and an optional tree. Often, a small replica of the korovai is made for the newlyweds to keep as a memento. Glazed with egg wash, it keeps indefinitely. Decorations may be baked in advance and the korovai assembled the day before use.
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